Three years ago, a genre-defining game was released and it was unlike anything ever seen before; that game was Payday by Overkill. Released today on Steam, Payday 2 is a direct sequel to the original game placing gamers in the role of infamous criminals Dallas, Houston, Wolf and Chain.
Payday 2 revolutionizes the genre it pioneered by including twice the action, while maintaining the drama that made the original so much fun to play. Everything that you wanted to see in the original game makes an appearance in the sequel.
The game includes bigger heists with sprawling environments, eliminating the claustrophobic feeling of the previous game. A comprehensive skill system gives you access to talent trees that span three different classes. You can also customize your character’s appearance and any weapons that are being carried. The modification process is flexible; you can add attachments to your weapons and change the load outs.
Payday 2‘s customization system is absolutely mind-blowing; it gives the player complete control over their character’s appearance (including the protective gear they wear). Dallas, Houston, Wolf and Chains can unlock additional masks to wear. These masks range from hockey masks to skull faces; they can be customized with colors, patterns, and additional textures for a personalized touch.
As you level up, additional gear such as bulletproof vests and a variety of firearms become available. However, some items cannot be obtained until you complete a heist. Once a heist is successfully completed, you are greeted by a game of Russian roulette of sorts, where you must choose from one of three cards. These cards can grant items that range between additional money to weapon modifications. The only downside to unlocking these unique items is that you’re still required to purchase them.
Aside from customizing your character, you can upgrade your Safe House which serves as both a training ground and storage for all your hidden assets. While not necessarily an important aspect of the game, the Safe House is a great place to hone your skills before a heist.
The heists in Payday 2 make the original game seem like a cakewalk. The environments are so large, you can easily get lost while looking for the safe (if one even spawns for the mission). It also means that your law enforcement adversaries can sneak up on you easier. Heists can span across multiple days, making them far more challenging. Plus, if you are unsuccessful at completing each day, you will not be paid for your efforts.
Don’t mistake Payday 2 for another ordinary first-person shooter; it takes precision and good FPS skills to take down the AI (Artificial Intelligence) controlled officers. Combat is fierce as officers show up to take on your crew of criminals. The police hide behind trees, sneak into alleys, and use vehicles as cover as they unleash a hail of bullets that shatter windows and tear through walls. And if the police happen to fail, Swat is called in to deal with you, and it’s not pretty.
The aiming mechanics have evolved since the original game. When you look down the iron sights of your weapon, everything outside the crosshairs blur. This tunnel vision effect captures the adrenaline rush felt during combat.
It’s important to plan your heists; you can’t rush into a location and start killing hostages. The game penalizes such actions by reducing the pay out by $3,000 per dead hostage. Essentially, you are rewarded for keeping everyone alive. But depending on the players you meet online, your heist can end in disaster rather quickly. During this review, one player tripped an alarm too early, alerting the police before our group could start drilling through the safe. We eventually escaped, but barely.
Unlike its predecessor, Payday 2 doesn’t use a lobby-like chapter system for selecting heists. A Crime Network is used as a central hub for finding contracts via online and offline play. The heists will appear on the Crime Network and will only last for about 30 seconds or until another player retrieves the contract. Once you have retrieved a contract from the network, you are sent to a lobby where you wait for additional players to join your crew. While waiting for players, you can select and/or customize your skills, choose your weapon load out, and even purchase assets that give additional insight on the heist.
If you’re short on real players, there is an option to have AI controlled teammates fill in where real players are absent. Even though Payday 2 relies heavily on cooperative play, it can be played as a single-player experience. Playing the game offline will net all the same amenities, so there are no restrictions. The AI does a fantastic job of helping you through the heists in single-player mode, but nothing beats playing with real players.
The graphics are photo realistic and far surpass the original game. Watching the spent shell casings rapidly eject from your SMG or assault rifle with precision is something that has to be witnessed first-hand. The attention to detail is simply overwhelming; the amount of destructible objects in the environment is staggering as well.
The soundtrack from the original Payday has not only returned, but it’s more dramatic than it ever was. It does a great job of getting your blood pumping as you battle the police and check on hostages. In a lot of ways, it gives Payday 2 a Hollywood blockbuster feel that was only felt in movies like Heat, starring Robert DeNiro and Val Kilmer.
Payday 2 is an even better game than the original. It’s the type of game that challenges your skills as a gamer without losing the element of fun. Besides, name one game in recent memory (the original Payday excluded) where being bad felt so good.
James ‘ Daripp3r’ Pittaro
Developer: OVERKILL – a Starbreeze Studio
Publisher: 505 Games
ESRB: RP (Rating Pending)
|Photorealistic graphics that contain destructible objects.|
|Dramatic sound effects and a Hollywood quality soundtrack.|
|Intense action that requires good teamwork skills.|
|Payday 2 is an incredible game that should be experienced by all gamers.|